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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

The John Logue ACE Award; other ACE Awards

August 2, 2010
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At the Association of Cooperative Educators banquet on Thursday night, Cathy Statz of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, sang a song in memory of Rod Nilsestuen from Madison who was part of the agricultural cooperative world and who passed last week, and John Logue, who was part of the employee-owned businesses world, who passed last year  Cathy beautifully sang the soprano part of an Irish Blessing written by Jeremy Hanson. She was also the program emcee.  (See Cathy's lyrics to popular or traditional songs expressing the co-op beliefs and spirit Songs.pdf). 

This year the Association of Cooperative Education established a new award:  The John Logue ACE Award which "recognizes an individual or organization whose educational programs, technical assistance or research acts as a catalyst for change by creating innovative cooperatives that promote a democratic work environment and economic sustainability for people and communities."

John Logue, founder of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University, died suddenly in December 2009.  I first met John, I believe, at the second Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in 2003.  He was enthusiastic, friendly and he had lots of literature.  New to the movement, I was impressed because the state of Ohio, was involved in the work of creating employee-owned businesses. John was well-respected and often- consulted in the co-op movement. 

He was one of the plenary panelists at the 2008 ECWD conference discussing the history of cooperation and employee ownership and the potential for today's cooperative movement with authors John Curl and Charlie McCollester, and U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives executive director Melissa Hoover.

Just four months later, when many of us in the ECWD got word of John's death, we were all stunned.  He had seemed so vibrant at the conference, ever excited about the work to create a better world for working people and the cooperative movement, and had visions of him being with us for many years to bring the work forward.


Throughout the ACE conference there were many references to Logue - particularly as it regarded the Evergreen cooperatives.  It was clear that in Cleveland, the conference was in John Logue territory.   It was during the awards banquet we learned more about Logue's vision, "moxie" and his personal side from his wife.

"A major reason why we came to Cleveland was because it is the home...of John Logue." said ACE administrator Bill Patrie, when he opened the awards banquet on Thursday night.

Introducing the John Logue Award were OEOC staffers Bill McIntyre and Olga Klepikova.

Referencing a statement in an earlier presentation that co-ops were the "third way" -- neither capitalist or socialist -- Bill said of John:

"I don't think he would sign on to saying co-ops are the third way.  I think he would say co-ops are THE way."

"Everything that he did was within this vision that he had," Bill said.  The vision extended far beyond the immediate or the obvious.

Logue visited Mondragon 2005, 2008 and 2009.  "He thought it was replicable here in the U.S.," Bill said.

"John thought Evergreen would be successful in Cleveland and felt it could be replicable," he said.  "This is John's idea."

Bill said that OEOC was born in 1987 due to a crisis with the Youngstown steel mill's threatened closing.  John was able to help save the workers' jobs by turning the company into an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).  Soon afterwards, John got funding to start OEOC.   The independently funded center on Kent State campus is one of only two remaining state centers of 12 started in other states. (Vermont has the other.)

John's tenure at OEOC, the center helped covert 80 businesses to ESOPs, he said.

As a result of the Youngstown work, John's vision was creating succession plans for companies.  

"The idea of succession planning that started in Cleveland is now accepted in the financial world," Bill observed.

He announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded OEOC a grant to extend succession planning to rural areas for farms. 

John came up with the idea to make Select Machine the world's first 1042 eligible worker cooperative.  The company of about 10 employees was too small for an ESOP, so OEOC helped it to become a worker cooperative.  He then started the term "employee-owned worker cooperative."

Logue had the idea for a Common Wealth Revolving Loan Fund campaign designed to make loans to ESOPs or co-ops.  Bill said that a few months ago the fund was certified as a CDFI -- Community Development Financial Institution.  CDFIs are different from banks in that they understand co-ops and community development lending and make loans to groups that traditional banks would not, making loans for cooperative and community development work more accessible. 

"All the dots are connected," Bill said.  "Everything John has worked for is beginning to have an impact, not only in Ohio, but the nation. "

Bill said that Logue hired qualified and competent staff committed to his vision.  "We all will see that his vision gets implemented." 


It was really special to hear John's wife, Olga Klepikova, speak.

She said it as hard to talk about her husband, but she would put a reign in her emotion and get through it. 

In preparation for coming to the awards banquet, Olga said that while looking online to see what people had said about her husband she saw a reference to "Logue's moxie."

"I'm Russian and I didn't get," she said, explaining that she had to go to the dictionary to decipher was moxie meant. (I did too, and I was born here.  According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, moxie is slang that developed from a drink and means "force of character, determination or nerve.") 

"John was a big visionary and a dreamer," she said. "However he kept his sense of realism and had to be practical."  She said that John pursuit of better life "for ordinary working people was so big it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that his work was his life, and his life was his work."  She said that John often came home from the OEOC around 9 pm, but that there was always time to talk about his work. 

"At that time there was no moxie," she said.  "He expressed doubts about whether he did the right thing."

There was a lot of concern whether a project would survive its infancy and be sustainable, she said.  "These concerns and doubts kept John's feet on the ground and allowed him to be sensible." 

With moxie of her own, Olga stated:  "I wish John was here today, " she said.  "That would establish his moxie." 

"If I didn't see him home much, it was at least for a good cause."

Her honest and heart-felt presentation got a standing ovation.


Audrey Malan, formerly of Cooperation Works! and now a cooperative consultant  from Wyoming, won the Outstanding Contribution to Cooperative Education and Training Award.  That award "recognizes long-term or continuing contributions to cooperative education, such as the development of training materials, publications or leadership within the cooperative movement."

"She is an amazing person," said Bill Patrie, who presented her with the award.  "Audrey Malan understands the soul of cooperatives."

In her speech, Audrey stated that "I feel so much gratitude that I have spent the bulk of my adult life working with principles in line with my values.  You guys have been my inspiration and support."

Jen Heneberry, of the Ontario Co-operative Association," won the William Hlushko Award for Young Cooperative Educators.  The award "recognizes an ACE member, 35 years or younger, for achievements as a cooperative educator."  Tom Pierson, executive director of the North American Students of Cooperation, present Jen's award. 

Bob Cohen of Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield, OH, earned the Reginald J. Cressman ACE Award Recognizing Commitment to Staff Development. William J. Nelson, president of CHS Foundation, presented his award.

The Ohio Employee Ownership Center, captured the Outstanding Contribution to ACE by an Organization Award.  ACE President Rod Kelsay, presented that award.

Rod said that OEOC has "given us models scalable for co-op development."

Roy Messing, who does succession planning at OEOC, accepted the award. 

"What a great story that John had," Roy said. "We look forward to carrying out John's vision."

ACE will post audio of the presentations at  ACE is also expected to produce a DVD of the conference proceedings. For information, contact Sarah Pike at


















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